There’s always a little bit of confusion at this time. For weeks, you’ve read about the “final cutdown” to 53 players. That happened at 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Tuesday, as the Kansas City Chiefs (and the rest of the NFL’s teams) made the moves to get their rosters to the in-season limit.
But that was really just the initial 53-man roster. More moves are likely to be made in the coming days.
Beginning at 11 a.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Wednesday, all of the players who have been waived (that is, released from teams while having fewer than four accrued seasons of NFL service) may be claimed by other clubs.
Like all other teams, the Chiefs have until then to submit claims for these waived players. But since they finished the 2021 season in the AFC championship game, they’ll be near the end of the line; when more than one claim is submitted for a player, his contract is awarded to the claiming team with the worst record in the previous season.
Waived players who aren’t claimed by other teams (that is, if they clear waivers) then become free agents who can sign with any team. They will then join the vested veterans (those with at least four accrued seasons) who were released from NFL rosters on Tuesday. Teams have been free to sign these veteran players since their release, so we’re likely to hear about some veteran signings across the league before Wednesday’s waiver deadline.
But when any team acquires a new player with either a waiver claim or a free-agent signing, it will have to make room by giving up a player already on its 53-man roster. Some of these will be younger players who will be waived. Others will be older veterans who will be released. For them, the whole process will repeat.
Some roster spots may be opened with trades. Others will open when players on the initial roster are moved to the team’s Reserve/Injured (injured reserve) list. Unlike players who are added to IR before the 53-man cutdown, those who are added after the cutdown are eligible to be returned to the active roster after their teams have played at least four games.
We expect the Chiefs to make such a move right away. It has been reported that Kansas City will add tight end Blake Bell to its Reserve/Injured list and then replace him with veteran linebacker Elijah Lee, who was released on Tuesday.
It all adds up to a lot of roster moves between now and the first games of the season — and still more after the season begins. An NFL roster is always subject to change.
Also beginning at 11 a.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Wednesday, NFL teams can begin assembling practice squads. Under rules that originated with the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (and have been modified several times — most recently in May), these practice squads may consist of up to 16 players. They can include as many as six veteran players with any amount of NFL experience.
These players can do almost everything else that players on the active roster can do: work out in the practice facility, attend team meetings and participate in practices. But they cannot appear in games unless they are elevated to the active roster for a specific game (which requires no corresponding roster move) or signed to the active roster — which does require a rostered player to be removed. Under current rules, individual practice-squad players may be elevated up to three times during the regular season. There are no limits on individual player elevations in the postseason.
Click here for a complete summary of practice-squad rules.